A Friend in Deed

Episode 23 – A Friend in Deed

The twenty-third episode of Columbo was titled A Friend in Deed and was the eighth and final episode of the show’s third season. A police commissioner takes advantage of leverage over a friend to murder his wealthy wife. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at the schemes and slip-ups that faced Columbo in his investigation.

 

 

The two murderers in this episode were played by Michael McGuire and Richard Kiley. McGuire’s Hugh Caldwell opens the episode having just murdered his wife and with the help of Kiley’s Supt. Mark Halperin is able to make the death look like the work of a burglar known to be operating in the area. Sensing an opportunity, Halperin murders his wife also, intending that the same perpetrator will be held responsible.

 

Margaret Halperin, played by Rosemary Murphy, is the second victim and a key witness in the initial investigation, while burglar Artie Jessup (a familiar face in Val Avery) may be an unsavoury sort, but he’s no killer and Columbo has leverage to ensure his co-operation, used to great effect.

 

Cameos from Eric Christmas as a jewellery store owner, Eleanor Zee as Jessup’s moll Thelma, John Finnegan as Lt. Duffy and the returning Arlene Martel as a jewellery store employee helped sustain a dark, but energetic episode.

 

The episode was directed by Ben Gazzara in the first of two turns at the helm. Gazzara would find his greatest success as an actor, nominated for multiple Emmy and Golden Globe awards – though also for two Razzies for turns in Inchon (1981) and Road House (1989) respectively! Writer Peter S. Fischer returned after his work on Publish or Perish, for the second of his nine Columbo scripts.

 

We asked listeners during the episode to let us know if they knew who played Janice Caldwell’s corpse. If you have thoughts on that or on any aspect of A Friend in Deed please share them below, or find us on Twitter at @columbopodcast.

 

The Columbo Podcast is widely available – on iTunes, Stitcher, tunein, Pocket Casts or pretty much wherever you choose to receive and manage your podcasts. If you enjoy the show it would be greatly appreciated if you consider leaving ratings and reviews on these sites – particularly iTunes – as that can make a big difference to growing the podcast’s audience.

 

A Friend in Deed was released in 1974. It is 98 minutes long and originally aired on the NBC network. It can be viewed on Netflix in the United States and is available on DVD in other countries, including a comprehensive box set of all eleven seasons released by Universal.

 

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast team develops, produces and promotes The Columbo Podcast.

  • Bit of housekeeping – in order to keep the podcast rolling and cover any holidays/illness/etc. we’re starting to record a week in advance.

    That means we won’t be as able to comment during the recordings on things that have happened here in the comments or on twitter, but hopefully maintaining delivery of the new episodes will trump that!

  • Arabian Knights

    One of the very best episodes. What a treat to see the arrogant smirk wiped off Halpern’s face when he is well and truly hoist in his own petard! And Val Avery is magnificent in his role.

  • Ian Baxter

    A very enjoyable episode with a good gotcha moment…

    Kind of odd to find that Columbo’s boss is a crooked cop. I think up to now I have seen Columbo as either the exceptional, if eccentric, genius within a department of bumbling cops… or, as he has so often presented, a detective constantly driven and pushed by his superiors (another Columbo lie perhaps).

    So the laid back, scheming, gambling, drinking and womanising Halperin is certainly a surprising reveal
    as the top man. Yet, simply enough, without too much fuss or insight into the staff room gossip, Columbo cleans up the department and seems to have his colleagues on board as he arrests his boss.

    Season three is by far the best so far with a really strong run of episodes with Falk/Columbo in his prime…

    Lovely But Lethal – Not Guilty
    Any Old Port In A Storm – Guilty
    Candidate For Crime – Guilty
    Double Exposure – Guilty
    Publish Or Perish – Guilty
    Mind Over Mayhem – Guilty
    Swan Song – Guilty
    A Friend In Deed – Guilty

    Thanks again for a great podcast, very enjoyable. Loving the banter… hope the car is on the mend!

  • Ian Baxter

    With the help of IMDb it is a always interesting to find out a bit more about the extras. Alma Beltran, who plays the maid Mrs Fernandez, and was also an extra in Double Exposure (housekeeper)….

    “Beltran started her film career in Hollywood in the uncredited role of Miss Guatemala in the film Pan-Americana (1945) (1945). From 1945 to 2002, in addition to her film roles, Beltran played over 80 roles in film and television, often in smaller roles, always as Mexican women, and then later in her career, as family matriarch types or senoritas. These included guest roles in such popular TV series as The F.B.I. (1965), Bonanza(1959), Lou Grant (1977), Knight Rider (1982), The A-Team (1983) and The Jeffersons(1975). On the big screen, in film, she appeared in such films as Jubilee Trail, Marathon Man (1976), Oh, God! Book II (1980), and most recently in Ghost (1990) which co-starred Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg, and the 2002 comedy film Buying the Cow (2002). She died in Northridge, California in 2007.”

  • Well, what a terrific episode; thoroughly enjoyable and pretty well paced out too. This had a kind of Starsky and Hutch feel to it for me which is probably down to ‘Archie’ and, in particularly the downtown bar where the ‘unsavoury characters’ hang out. I felt that the deputy commissioner was absolutely cold blooded and that added to the whole frisson. I have to agree with Mr. Baxter that Season 3 has been quite superlative. I really hope that Season 4 lives up to the standard that has now been set. I shall be viewing the first episode of Season 4 on our projector today – for me that is the ultimate way to view these magnificent features.

    In terms of budget, this certainly had some money thrown at it – thinking about the chopper scene, in particular.

    In terms of humour, I loved the scene in which Columbo is trying to locate his cigar from the commissioner’s car.

    In terms of direction, Ben Gazarra did a terrific job in my opinion. Those who have read my comments before will recall my mention of ‘Husbands’ starring Peter Falk, John Cassavetes and one Ben Gazarra. This currently scores a very worth 8 our 10 on IMDB. If you enjoyed the direction for this episode you’ll be looking forward, as I am, to ‘Troubled Waters’, another of his efforts, in a few weeks (S4, Episode 4). Interestingly, Gazarra also directed an episode of ‘Name of the Game’, notably ‘Appointment in Palermo’, starring a certain Mr. Gene Barry, whom long-standing Columbo fanatics will recall from ‘Prescription Murder’, the Columbo TV Movie aired in February 1968, which for some inexplicable reason the podcast hasn’t covered yet. I’m sure Gerry and Iain have a perfectly credible explanation for this, though, along with the absence of the pilot episode (Ransom for a Dead Man – aired in March 1971).

    A worthy final entry for the season.

    • Ian Baxter

      I was also a bit unsure about the missed pilot episodes. However, I do think it will be good to go back to those two episodes after we make it through the later episodes. It will allow us to finish the podcast journey with a bit of a reflection on where we all started and to finish on a very much more positive note.

      • We will be covering the pilot episodes. Not together, but we have a plan!

        • Largo

          “Pilot episodes?” I’m sorry, but there was only one pilot episode for the NBC Columbo Mystery Movie series and that was “Ransom For A Dead Man” (1971). “Prescription: Murder” (1968) was a stand-alone, made-for-television film that was based on Richard Levinson and William Link’s play of the same name, eh. There was only one television show from the 1960s that got two pilot films made that successfully sold it as a weekly TV series and that was …. [wait for it — ] …. Star Trek! Isn’t that lovely? 🙂

    • Largo

      “[F]or some inexplicable reason the podcast hasn’t covered yet.” ??? I’m sorry, but Gerry and Iain already covered this in one of their early first season (“Murder By The Book,” perhaps?) podcasts, eh. The Columbo Podcast Team will have a special stand-alone podcast covering “Prescription: Murder” (1968) and the pilot film “Ransom For A Dead Man” (1971). Am I the only one who remembers this, eh? I’m such an old fart and I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast yesterday. Was it Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Eggs and Spam or was it Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Eggs and Spam? I’m so confused here! 🙁

  • Largo

    This Columbo Mystery Movie spared no expense: the producers hired Richard Kiley! Now this fact alone should impress the heck out of all of you, so forget about all of that business in this episode involving the helicopter. They hired Richard Kiley! Have any of you heard this man sing? Richard Kiley has a tremendous voice and it was put to very good use in the broadway production of “Man Of La Mancha.” This is the musical that was based on Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Take a guess as to who portrayed the title character in “Man Of La Mancha?” Right: Richard Kiley — they spared no expense here as well! The most famous song from this particular musical production is “The Impossible Dream.” Richard Kiley won a Tony Award for his performance as Cervantes and as Don Quixote in “Man Of La Mancha.” However, Richard Kiley’s performance as Deputy Police Commissioner, Mark Halperin, is not really award worthy in my book.

    Richard Kiley’s portrayal of Mark Halperin is rather one-note in my very humble opinion. Halperin is so evilly conniving and arrogant and so unsympathetic that his performance almost borders on parody: Kiley might as well have grown a longer mustache so he could twirl it in various scenes like Snidley Whiplash. Plus, Richard Kiley tends to overplay certain moments as the evil Deputy Commissioner Halperin, especially when he erupts in those histrionics over the apparent drowning of his wife. Speaking of Mrs. Halperin, her murder in the bathtub at the hands of the evil Mark Halperin is totally ludicrous. But then again, those Mr. Bubble soap suds were rather toxic (the original formula was in the heat of controversy at the time of this production) and these noxious bubbles must have actually caused Mrs. Halperin’s death. Yes, that’s the ticket!

    Richard Kiley as the evil Mark Halperin gets stolid support from the actor, Michael McGuire. McGuire portrays the friend and neighbor, Sancho, who whines and clings to his master Halperin for all kinds of support. Oops — I mean McGuire portrays the wussy friend, Hugh Caldwell, who can’t think or act on his own in a time of crisis without the help of the evil Mark Halperin. Michael McGuire is the type of actor that is the best ‘go to guy’ if you need someone to portray characters like hen-pecked husbands, junior executives that get dumped on with the worst clients or the soldier that cries out for his mommy in the heat of battle. So it comes as no surprise when Caldwell goes to meet Artie Jessup in a seedy bar, that McGuire is sporting those ridiculous sunglasses. I so wanted Jessup to grab these sunglasses off of Caldwell’s face while spouting, “What do you think you are — a secret agent!??!” I then wanted Jessup to shout while looking around at the bar patrons, “Caldwell, Caldwell — we’ve got Caldwell here! You see — nobody cares!” There I go again: riffing on the film, Jurassic Park. Why you may ask? It’s because of Richard Kiley — the Columbo producers spared no expense!!!

    I know, I know: some of you are probably saying to yourselves, ‘But Largo — why are you being so mean and snarky toward “A Friend In Deed” when you have it listed as one of your Top Ten Columbo Episodes?’ Well, I’ll tell you why: it’s the wonderful and note-perfect performance of Val Avery as the cat burglar, Artie Jessup, that saves this episode from total mediocrity, in my very humble opinion. I’m not at all impressed with this episode’s ‘A’ story, but this episode’s ‘B’ story is a whole different matter. This is where the character of Artie Jessup is introduced and also where “A Friend In Deed” comes to life for me. Val Avery’s performance as Artie Jessup is one of sheer brilliance and his cat burglar is a living and breathing character and not at all the cardboard cutout caricatures that the two murderers are, in my humble opinion. In short, Val Avery steals the whole show here — and alongside the brilliant and winning performance of Peter Falk as Lieutenant Columbo, these two consummate actors make “A Friend In Deed” a total winner. Together, Falk and Avery make quite the team in that final sequence that involves one of the very best Columbo “Gotcha!” moments in the show’s history. Peter Falk and Val Avery leave you wanting more and I truly wish that this Artie Jessup character had been brought back in a later Columbo episode. Great stuff here!!! Be seeing you!

    • I agree – and have said as much already – with the Val Avery performance, but am still not willing to call off the Daleks…yet…

      • Largo

        La dee da — my pal Davros already called them off, dude. Twiddle dee dee ….

    • Ian Baxter

      Not sure where the character of Artie would fit in with future episodes… as the ex-con in Negative Reaction?

      • Largo

        Not that episode, please! That ex-con was a perfect putz and Artie ain’t nobody’s putz, ya see? Artie Jessup ain’t nobody’s fool! 🙂

  • Largo

    Richard Kiley performing the songs, “I Don Quixote” and “The Impossible Dream” from Man Of La Mancha, courtesy of YouTube:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onQJZ-gzwsc

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHVGOp5Usv4

    • Sorry – this is a nice version but I much prefer Elvis’s interpretation. That makes the hairs on my neck stand on end, which is really saying something…

      • Largo

        Bah! Did Elvis ever win a Tony Award like the Great Richard Kiley!??! I laugh in the face of your Elvis! 😉

    • Ian Baxter

      Wow, would never have recognised him. Prison hasn’t been to kind to him has it 🙂

      • Largo

        Oh, you cad, you! But prison hasn’t dulled that beautiful baritone singing voice of his, eh?
        🙂

  • Johnny

    I note you gentlemen have not saw the light regarding the what-if scenarios. But I was pleased to hear lots of guilty verdicts. On an unrelated note it takes around ten seconds to choke someone unconscious, death follows in minutes (particularly in a bath).

  • Largo

    Well, I’ve been re-watching my Columbo DVDs once again so each and every episode is fresh in my mind before I listen to a new Columbo podcast and …. I’ve revised my Top 20 list. So here it is once again and hopefully I won’t be second-guessing myself about it in the future, eh:

    Largo’s Top 20 Columbo Episodes List [Original NBC Series]

    1. Identity Crisis
    2. Murder By The Book
    3. Death Lends A Hand
    4. Swan Song
    5. The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case
    6. Any Old Port In A Storm
    7. A Stitch In Crime
    8. Now You See Him
    9. An Exercise In Fatality
    10. Blueprint For Murder
    11. Double Shock
    12. Lady In Waiting
    13. Double Exposure
    14. Murder Under Glass
    15. A Friend In Deed
    16. The Most Dangerous Match
    17. Troubled Waters
    18. By Dawn’s Early Light
    19. Candidate For Crime
    20. The Conspirators

    • What? No ‘Etude In Black’? [Lights fuse wire and stands well back].

      • Largo

        Yeah, we all know about your ‘man crush’ on that Cassavetes dude, Kieran! So please put a stop to your pushing this Cassavetes onto all of us more discerning viewers, eh. 😉

  • alonghowl

    Overall, season three was very strong aside from the one clunker – ‘Mind over Mayhem’.

    There is something about Falks performance which seems slightly different in this season. Perhaps he had a better handle on the character and was subtly refining his traits. Is it that in earlier episodes Columbos ‘process’ appears much more internalised/ self contained on screen?

    Has anyone else noticed this and can suggest exactly what it is?

    I must admit I do have a penchant for episodes where the killer is well aware that Columbo knows it’s them. The cat and mouse game begins and all the meta-conversations ensue. Culp, in Double Exposure, is a good example of this.

    “Any Old Port in a Storm” has to be my favourite in this season. The interaction between Pleasence and Falk is great. How about everyone else?

    • Yes, I echo your observations. By this point, Peter Falk had undoubtedly grown and matured into the part, to the point where I guess Columbo was a household name.

      Any Old Port In a Storm: currently my favourite episode out of all of seasons so far.

  • Largo

    One of the burning questions that I always have about this episode involves Janice Caldwell going out with other men like Charlie Shoup the car salesman (played by actor John Calvin). If Janice Caldwell is so strapped for cash, why didn’t she pursue some big shot lawyer or even a doctor? Why didn’t Janice Caldwell attempt to hook a dude with plenty of money, eh? Why did she even bother with this two-bit car salesman?

    Speaking of car salesmen, here is a series of hilarious TV commercials that takes the phrase “badgering car salesman” to a whole new level and that teaches exactly how not to deal with potential customers:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7pJZv-0TDc

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWzfTIN4Ogw

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9F1z21G2J8

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9maS_7rrkY

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DG8cdMutLwA

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8Rcee99yOA

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18SeqcDtPEI

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwsNLWLJELw

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkYe1y_sbGg

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9g9gq97Nrs

    • Ian Baxter

      I suspect the reason is that this is more about an opportunity to bring in the car rather than expand the character of Janice.

      • Largo

        Do I look like I care about an extra-diegetic reason for including the car salesman? I don’t! Besides, I’m on my popcorn break.
        Grady the Badger

  • Jasperoo

    My favourite Columbo of them all. The way he pursues the truth – despite the possible cost to his career – makes him a very admirable character. I think Columbo’s fundamental determination to pursue truth and justice is what gives the character greatness, aside from the little quirks like the coat, dog, car, etc. The springing of the final trap is also superbly done, leaving the chielf villain literally lost for words. I love this episode.